10. Deliverance from self.
There is a remarkable scripture upon the subject of our last chapter, which concisely gives us the essence of the important truth of the 6th of Romans. It is this: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” (Gal. 2:20.) Three truths stand before us in this passage:
(1.) The end of “I;”
(2.) The new life;
(3.) The power of practical christianity.
The end of “I”
To such as have had no struggle to be free from self, our passage will, we fear, be mystical, and the statements of God respecting human nature, opposed to their common sense. It is only they who have longed for deliverance, that prize God's way of freedom.
It is our nature to do certain things; we commit sin because our nature is sinful, and it is he who has tried, as in God's presence, to be holy, and has learned how impossible it is to keep evil out of his heart, who knows practically something of the meaning of “I.” He knows what self is by experience of himself.
But there is a truer way of learning what “I” means than by experience of self, and that is by looking to Christ upon the cross, hanging there in our place, suffering there what we merit — there as our substitute. For if Jesus took our place, we deserve what Jesus suffered in our stead. Consider how God forsook Him when He was made sin for us. Consider that Jesus Himself justified God as the Holy One, when forsaken upon our account, saying: “Thou art holy,” and consider also what the wrath-bearing of Christ was, what the cross was, and thus enter into the deep dark meaning of “I,” which caused the Lord His woe; yes,
Christ verily took our place.
Many accept in a general way the truth of Christ being their substitute, without being fully and believingly clear that they were really, in God's sight, with Christ in the place He took. During one of the late wars a man, who was called to serve in the army, obtained a substitute. At the close of the battle, when the list of the killed and wounded was made public, amongst them was recorded the name of him who had obtained the substitute. The substitute had died upon the field, and the man for whom he died was counted amongst the dead. After a while, soldiers being scarce, the man was called upon to serve again, but he pleaded to this effect, “I am dead; my name is written amongst the dead; and indeed I have died in the person of my substitute: therefore I cannot serve.” His plea was received; be was accepted as free. Let us take this story as an illustration of the words, “I am crucified with Christ.” Mark, not merely “I am crucified,” for that might be read as a victory over self by self-strength, and might be understood as spiritual attainment, but “I am crucified with Christ,” which is a fact of grace, and accordingly belongs to every believer. God has not only taken our sins and laid them upon the Sin-bearer, but He has crucified our “old man” with Christ, therefore in His sight the “I” of the believer is dead. Let us take God simply at His word, remembering that the highest faith is that which most resembles childhood's simplicity, and by faith count ourselves to be the dead thing which the Divine fact of a crucified Christ discovers us to be.
The new life:
“Nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” Here also is a fact, the blessings of which, belong to all Christians. New life is no attainment; “this is the record, that God hath given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son; he that hath the Son hath life.” (1 John 5:11, 12.) If it were an attainment it were no gift; and the gift is bestowed upon those who have no merit whatever, but who are crucified with Christ. Thus God presents us with self dead in His sight, and Christ living in us.
Now, what is that which, in a divine way, lives within the person of the believer? For we read — “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live.” Does this new life — this God-given life — enter into our old, fallen nature? Does “I” reappear with Christ helping it? Is this new life, fallen nature christianized modernized? Ah! how carefully does the gospel bar out self! Were it not so, “I” would reappear dressed in new garments, and would stand erect, as vigorous and more reliant than before; for what kind of “I” is more difficult to convince of its utter death-state in the sight of God than religious “I”? What, then, is this new life? “I live, yet not I;” not the “I,” my fallen nature, my own self, which was and is crucified with Christ, “but Christ liveth in me” — Christ, who has left the sins of His people behind Him for ever — Christ, who was dead but is alive again, lives in the believer.
Christ and “I” stand here in contrast. The holy desires, the spiritual upspringings, the risings Godward, the peace and gladness in the divine presence, all that which expresses itself as divine life in the believer, is Christ in me, not “I.”
Moreover it is as true of a believer, that Christ liveth in him, as it is true that his own nature is a dead thing in the sight of God. He is not to look to himself or in himself for resources, but to “yield himself to God as one alive from the dead.”
We again beg our reader to bear in mind that what we have thus far spoken of is not attainment. Self is judicially gone in the cross of Christ, and when we believe, Christ lives within us. This is the portion — whether enjoyed or not enjoyed — of all God's people. A man may have a fortune left him, yet because he does not know of the fact, he may describe himself as penniless. Thousands of God's people with all the wealth of the gospel theirs, are mourning and doubting whether after all they are christians, and so will they mourn, until they believe God. We now come to attainment, to
The power of practical christianity
“And the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” This emphatically is attainment, and appeals to such as, by grace, believe the facts already put forth. It may be missed, or not lived out. For there are certain blessings by grace the common portion of all Christians, whilst there are others relating to our walk, which it is our responsibility not to miss. The Apostle speaks of himself as a person, as an individual believer, and tells us that he was, day by day, hour by hour, living by faith. He was not living by experiences, or by feelings, or by keeping the law, but upon another principle altogether. To live practically by faith was the sum and substance of Paul's daily life below. His faith was a carrying out of the divine principle of self being dead, and Christ being the believer's life. The life in the flesh might last one month or a series of years, but short or long there was to him only one way of living, viz., by faith.
And not only was his life that of faith, but it was the faith of the Son of God, the risen Christ, He who had borne his sins, but who had gone to glory. Paul's faith connected his soul with Christ, where Christ is, and this affected every detail of his life below. His life in its character obtained its energy from the Christ who is the source of the life, and the affections of the Apostle were fixed upon His life, and Christ Himself was the object that Paul had before him while upon the earth.
In such a daily life self is practically out of sight, as by the death of Christ self is judicially out of God's sight, and Christ alone is seen as He who lives in His people. The christian can indeed say our “life is hid with Christ in God,” and his practical walk ought to express the absent Christ to the world. The world cannot see the source of the Christian's life, nor the object for whom the christian lives, but the world should be able to see “Christ in you.”
None, save such as are fully delivered according to the measure of the first two points of our passage, can tread the path of liberty this third sets forth. This life of daily faith of the Son of God cannot be practically known by those who question the blessings brought to them by Christ's death and resurrection. A believer endeavouring to draw sweet waters from the bitter fountain of self, or seeking to wash the Ethiopian white, is not upon the ground of reckoning himself to be dead, and has not faith in the declaration of God, “Ye are dead.” He sets Christ aside as his only strength by his self efforts. Self must be counted what God says it is, “dead,” must be left alone if the practical life of faith of the Son of God would be known. Power for living the life of faith flows from
Faith in the Person of the living Christ.
Thus, while the principle of the believer's daily walk is faith, our passage says it is “the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” First, faith which attaches itself directly to the Son of God in His risen glory — faith which dwells in spirit with Jesus, now out of the world, and at the Father's right hand; but next, faith which, while connecting itself with the risen and exalted Jesus, remembers His past love and past sufferings, “Who loved me and gave Himself for me.” It is the faith of one whose heart is tender towards his own blessed Substitute. We recall the touching story of him, who, travelling through the United States shortly after the terrible civil war there, came to a newly made grave, by the side of which a man was weeping. Moved by the sorrower's distress, the traveller turned and expressed his sympathy, and at length enquired, “Friend, let me ask to whose memory have you raised this grave?”
“Sir,” the man replied, the tears coursing down his cheeks, “I was called to the war: he took my place — he died for me.”
Shortly afterwards this short simple inscription was placed over the grave —
“To the Man who died for me.”
Our lives should be monuments of gratitude to “Him who liveth and was dead;” the memory of the cross should ever be fresh within our breasts. For never does genuine practical faith, by any means, omit or forget the love of Jesus in dying for His people; nay, the more Christ in glory is personally and experimentally known, the more does the soul love to repeat, the Son of God “loved me and gave Himself for me.”
This passage, christian reader, is a noble confession of faith. “I,” self, absolutely gone from the sight of God — “crucified with Christ.” Life, mine, which naught can defile or harm, for it is “no longer I, but Christ, who liveth in me.”
And, lastly, practical behaviour, based upon love to the Lord, conformable to the truths of the great facts of His cross and resurrection.